With the 2012 Paralympics continuing to keep London enthralled, members of the Thailand team competing at the Games took time away from the village in Stratford to visit both Cobham and Stamford Bridge on Friday.
Chelsea and Singha, our global beer partner, invited the athletes to tour our facilities which were studied with interest by the competitors. Included among the visitors were two of Thailand’s three gold medallists so far – Rungroj Thainiyom who won in the men’s table tennis and Saysunee Jana, successful in women’s fencing.
‘The athletes were very impressed with the training ground, especially the rehab facilities,’ said Chutinant Bhirompakdi, president of Thailand’s Paralympic committee, during the visit.
‘Being national team players they are always having injuries and having this knowledge of rehab will help them a lot. Apart from winning the gold medals, this is probably their highlight.’
The Thai Paralympic squad for London 2012 is larger in number than their nation’s Olympic team, and they have exceeded their expectations with two gold medals their original target. However Bhirompakdi acknowledges a rising standard at the Paralympics, with Saichon Konjen, the Thai athlete who has the unenviable task of competing against GB’s David Weir in wheelchair tracks events, recording personal best times but having to settle for bronze whereas four years ago he won silver.
‘The Games have been great because world records are being broken left and right,’ Bhirompakdi said.’It is a challenge for us when we go back because everyone is improving.
‘What has impressed me about the London Games is there is genuine interest. There are no empty seats and everyone is cheering for everybody, they are cheering for athletes from Thailand as well, and it has been a great experience.’